Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood takes you on a winding ride back to 1969. Along the way you meet actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), his best friend/stunt double. Rick was once a popular star, but his career has declined significantly. This doesn’t have the best effect on Cliff’s job prospects, but he takes it in stride. The film also focuses on Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). You see her interacting with her husband and friends. The beginnings of a young actress’ life. Other characters are interwoven into the story, with stars like Kurt Russell, Al Pacino, and Bruce Dern making appearances.
Aside from some story points, there isn’t a lot of plot here. In fact [*spoiler alert*] it isn’t until the last 30 minutes where Tarantino really hits you in the face with some major development. Like, some really gruesome, yet hilarious, development.
The crux of the movie is following these characters around for a few days. DiCaprio does a fantastic job portraying a washed-up star desperately clinging to his past fame. Pitt is great as an easy-going, fun guy who’s happy just to be living in Hollywood. And Robbie brightens the film with her sunny effervescent portrayal of Sharon.
Speaking of, Sharon will always be associated with Charles Manson and his “family”. But I’m glad that we see very little of the cult leader. Just one scene, actually. Yes, there is a lot of time spent on his followers, including a particularly tense sequence with Cliff. But this isn’t a movie about them thankfully. There was more to Sharon than her death and I’m happy that Tarantino shows that.
The director also showcases the beauty and grittiness of Hollywood in the late 60s. Seeing the town transformed into its former self is a huge draw for the film. All that neon. And the music choices are spot on, adding to the experience. The one con is the length of the film. 2 hours and 45 minutes is a stretch, especially since it meanders quite a bit. It comes off as indulgent. But this is a movie worth seeing if you want to flashback to an iconic period in Hollywood history.